Backpacking: The Mental Game (And Bobstacles)

Everyone loves to talk about “how to prepare”.

You need a passport, a Schengen visa, a backpack, some monies…you know, the usual droll (haha).

I thought I would have a chat about the mental preparation when it comes to backpacking Europe and travel in general.

For some of us, there are a number of “brain obstacles” (or bobstacles as I like to call them) that we need to overcome to get the most out of a trip.

For first time backpackers, excitement edged with fear is normal.

You’re heading out into the wilds of your comfort zone, these are uncharted territories and it might feel like you don’t fully know the rules.

Eastern Europe Castle Croatia

Solo or Duo Travel: Meeting People

We’ll start off with some bobstacle basics. Traveling solo or duo both present a few minor challenges. Solo means you have to go out of your way to be social, and as a duo it’s easy to stick together and chat and not put yourself out there as much as you should.

Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up having done both:

  • Don’t be daunted by groups. Most of the time these “groups” are made up of solo or duo travellers just like you, and have only met each other in the last couple of hours. Just ask if you can join them and introduce yourself.
  • Every conversation not started is a potential awesome travel experience lost!
  • Carry a deck of cards with you or even something specific like UNO. Asking if people want to play a group game over a couple of drinks is an excellent ice breaker!
  • Remember that most other people backpacking also want to meet people and have fun – you’re not the only one, you know!

Swimming In Croatia Travel

On The Road: Expectations vs. Reality

Some people imagine that as soon as they start travelling, such amazing things will happen that fireworks will explode across the sky or they’ll end up on a Manchester United hooligan bus driving to Amsterdam fighting off girls at bars like a modern Casanova. Movies like “Eurotrip” don’t help here, and give young’uns exaggerated and false expectations that don’t match up with the more common backpacking reality.

Here’s a secret – amazing things can happen when you’re backpacking, but they don’t happen all the time. You need to put yourself out there and let them come to you.

I feel this is an underrated bobstacle that we need to clear up. Lower your crazy “expectations” and stop trying to define exactly what travel will do for you, and let reality surprise you with the hidden gems you’ll discover as you meander along.

Travel Burnout: Does It Exist?

Yeah, it does.

All long term travellers go through it at one point or another. If you’re heading over for 4 weeks or 8 weeks or even 16 weeks you will likely not come across it.

This bobstacle can often be defeated by simply slowing down. Sometimes we need the odd creature comfort, a movie, or a homecooked meal or the semblance of a routine.

You can get this by WWOOF’ing, or staying in one place for a little while just to get back into the swing of things.

It’s possible to get “hostelled out” or “museumed out”, don’t worry – this is normal. Unless you’re a massive history geek, seeing 5 museums in 12 days can start to get tough. It’s important to change things up.

We’ve found Airbnb to be a short refreshing break (and better then hotels) when hostels become tiresome in Europe.

Trudy and I experienced travel burnout at the end of our last huge trip. We were in Thailand, and after months in Europe, North America & then Asia we were ready to come home. In the few days before boarding the plane, Trudy burst her eardrum diving on Koh Tao in Thailand. We ended being stuck in Bangkok for another week with almost no money (I had lost our cards, woops!) and had to battle our travel insurance company to properly cover the claim.

We explored Bangkok a little, but a lot of time was spent holed up in our room. This was travel burnout.

It doesn’t mean we don’t like travel, it means that we needed a well earned break. A recharge of the physical and spiritual batteries.

If you experience travel burnout, slow down, breathe, give yourself a break and take some time to remember what’s important to you.

Travel Burnout Breathe

Budget Stress: Worrying About Money

For some, this is a legitimate concern whereas others are more blasé. The latter is useful in some respects, the mindset of “it will run out when it runs out” can make a trip stress free (until it does actually run out).

If you’re someone who is prone to worry about money and budgets, and it’s actually affecting your trip and travel time – you need to get it sorted out.

Put yourself back in control. Keep a little notebook of your expenses, spend a few minutes each day writing down what you spent money on that day. If you’re travelling for a while, this becomes an excellent reference point. You can easily calculate how much you’ve spent in total, and where the money is going so you can either expand or minimise expenses as you see fit.

The idea behind backpacking is being budget friendly.

We’ve All Got Bobstacles

No matter how much or little experience you’ve got, there’s always bobstacles to overcome.

The best thing you can learn is to relish the challenge of each mental block and reward yourself when you overcome it.

Make defeating bobstables a habit.

9 Responses to “Backpacking: The Mental Game (And Bobstacles)”

  1. MollyG says:

    That’s so funny. I literally just posted about “needing a day off” while traveling long term on our blog:

    Oh, and I used your blog to estimate our expenses before we left for our 6-month trip! And I’ve been keeping a book of all of our expenses as we go as well. So far, so good, budget-wise!

    • Tom says:

      Yep, I know the feeling. Sometimes you just need a day or two to recharge then you’re good to go again! Also, it’s excellent to hear the budget didn’t lead you astray, you should post your expenses from your notebook onto your blog – people enjoy getting real figures from the road 🙂

  2. eemusings says:

    Yep, we’ve been experiencing a LOT of this! Halfway through our RTW trip, and I’m starting to experience budget stress and my partner is definitely burnt out. We probably spend more time holed up relaxing than I’d like to admit (we have pretty short attention spans for cultural stuff) especially since we’re not used to this kind of heat.

    About to spend 3 weeks HelpXing, which I think will be a great break and am really looking forward to!

    • Tom says:

      Sounds like you’re ready for a break! HelpXing should allow you to slow down and get back that eagerness to travel and explore before you head off again. Hope it all works out!

  3. Sean says:

    Hey Tom.

    Great post.

    I think I am experiencing a little of that at the moment after being on the road for eight months now. Do you remember how many months into your latests long-term travel stint when you started to feel a bit burned out?


    • Tom says:

      Yeah I can imagine you would start to feel it a bit after 8 months. For us it was around the 18 month mark of being away from Australia.

      • Sean says:

        Yeah Tom. Wow, 18 months, that’s a loooooong time.

        To be completely honest here, I think what is contributing to a lot of it is just recently breaking up with my girlfriend. I met her traveling and we were with each other – 24/7 – for 4 months, traveling around. But it didn’t work out..

        Now it’s over, I am back to traveling solo, and it has been a bit hard to adjust.

        Ah well though, I know it’s only temporary!

  4. Stephen S. says:

    Your so wise…. like a miniature Buddha covered in hair 🙂

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